Enabling is, essentially, anything that shields someone from the consequences of their addiction. This includes doing things for them that they could do themselves. Enabling is something that most people do out of love and fear: love for the person leads to fear that they will not be okay unless someone does something. So how can express your love without enabling?
- Get educated. The more you can understand about addiction, the easier it will be for you to have empathy, and to respond effectively.
- Allow your loved one to experience the consequences of their actions – within reason, of course. This is painful, but if they can keep doing what they are doing without consequences, it will be much harder for them to feel motivated to stop.
- Allow your loved one to take on any tasks they can do for themselves. For example, they may need your help finding a treatment program, but they need to participate in any intake procedures.
- Allow your loved one to own their recovery. Don’t own it for them. There is no need for you to be their recovery “manager,” make decisions for them about their recovery, or set yourself up for a future power struggle.
- Take care of yourself. Respect your own limits and use self-care so you can be there for others when it’s needed.
Showing love while having limits is a balance. Family meetings like Al-Anon and SMART Friends and Family can help you to find a balance that feels right for you!
Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
AToN Center 888-535-1516